Sanaa Lathan on how Method Man gives a 'stamp of approval' to On the Come Up : 'He is hip-hop'

·3 min read

When you're making a film about an aspiring rapper, it pays to have a hip-hop legend in your cast.

Such was the case for Sanaa Lathan, who had the one and only Method Man starring in her directorial debut, On the Come Up. Based on Angie Thomas' book of the same name, the film follows 16-year-old Bri (newcomer Jamila C. Gray), who wants to be one of the best rappers of all time. But with eviction notices looming and a mother to support, she doesn't just want to be good — she has to be.

While visiting EW and PEOPLE's studio at the Toronto International Film Festival, Lathan praised Method Man (whose real name is Clifford Smith Jr.) for giving his "stamp of approval" to her film — but his involvement didn't always make things easier. "There were days on set that I had to curse out the camera crew because they would bring records and try to get autographs in between takes," she says of the Wu-Tang Clan star.

"I was like, 'Oh, right, he's a superstar,'" she continued. "You forget because he's so nice and so humble and professional. Shows up on time, knows his lines — we know that's not the case with a lot of [his peers] — I was just so impressed."

TIFF 2022 Portraits
TIFF 2022 Portraits

Ari + Louise Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Angie Thomas, Sanaa Lathan, Michael Cooper Jr., Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Miles Gutierrez-Riley, Jamila C. Gray, Al-Teron Williams of 'On the Come Up' photographed in the PEOPLE and EW 2022 Toronto International Film Festival studio on September 9, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario Canada.

Lathan, who was joined in studio by Thomas and her cast, including Smith, Gray, Al-Teron Williams, Miles Gutierrez-Riley, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, and Michael Cooper Jr., praised Method Man for "truly becoming a thespian." "I felt lucky to have him, not only because [his character] Supreme is such an important part in the movie, but I wanted it to be layered and there's so much to do with it, and I think he brought all of that. And then I just get the icing on the cake that he kind of gives us a stamp of approval because he is hip-hop, so thank you."

The rapper likewise had kind words for his director, saying he was thrilled to be a part of her directorial debut. "I'm all about supporting sisters, but not just sisters, Black sisters, and to see them in a position where they can quarterback s—, it's great," he said. "And she dealt with us with grace; she knew what her vision was going to be, and we all did our best to make that come to fruition. And at the end of the day, I had a great time, and that's what it's all about."

On the Come Up hits Paramount+ today. For more with the cast of the film — including how Gray landed her first lead role, how Lathan relates to her character in the film, Randolph's excitement to play a "butch drug dealer," and more — check out the full video above.

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